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Choosing the Best Expandable Garden Hose – A To the Point Guide

ARE YOU FED UP WITH YARDS OF garden hose strewn all over the yard, plastic hose reels that hold up just long enough for the warranty to run out? To get a truly lasting hose, you probably think you have to buy one of those heavyweight multi-core hoses that are guaranteed not to kink, wear out, burst, or do magic tricks.

What if I told you there was a solution to this dilemma? What if I told you there was a choice between the red hose and the blue hose?

The RED hose weighs a lot, but it won't kink or burst and is hard to move around.

The BLUE hose is super-lightweight, still won't kink or burst, and can be rolled up into a small package you can carry with one hand.

If you are like most of us, then you probably gave serious consideration to the BLUE hose but, ended up going with the RED one. Why? Because the blue hose sounds too good to be true.

But, if you take a minute to look at the BLUE hose, you will find that what we are talking about, is the very latest in expandable hose technology. Far from those “As Seen on TV” products of a decade or two ago, modern expandable hoses have a lot to offer as long as you know what to look for when buying one.


A Little History Story

Ancient Greece

You might think that the expandable hose is a modern invention. After all, it takes special materials and polymers to make an expandable hose, doesn't it? Today the answer to this would be yes, but no so far back in the annals of history. Some several thousands of years in history, the Greeks are known to have been the first ones to create an expandable hose.

Their hoses were made from animal intestines as part of the Greek War Machine. The Greek sailors would spray “Greek Fire” onto their enemies from these hoses, setting the sailors and their ships on fire. But, today using animal intestines like this might get you in a lot of trouble. So instead, we rely on modern technology to develop an expandable hose for us. Let's take a look at the construction of expandable hoses along with what you should be looking for when you are ready to buy your first expandable garden hose.

Introducing the Modern Expandable Hose

Today's expandable hose consists of an outer shell made from either a synthetic or cloth weave material. Inside is a latex hose made from a material that can expand up to 5 times its original size without bursting. The inner hose expands as it fills with water until it presses up against the outer casing.

Rubber hoses do not have the ability to shrink or expand, they are designed to be tough enough not to break or crack if they freeze or split and rupture when they get too hot. If you buy an inexpensive rubber hose, you end up one that collapses and kinks at the drop of a hat. Expandable hoses are designed not to kink or twist.

What to Look for in an Expandable Garden Hose

Blue Expandable Hose

There are many different brands of expandable garden hose on the market, and each of them claims to use the best materials to create the finest expandable hose on the market. How much of that is true, we are going to look at. Because the materials used are the most important part of any expandable garden hose, let's start by taking a look at the different materials, their advantages, and disadvantages.

The Outer Hose Casing

Today's expandable garden hose has an outer shell made from a woven polyester fabric. The term Deniers is used to measure the strength of the material being used. The measurement is based on the thickness of a single strand of silk. This measurement is used to describe most forms of natural and polyester fabric.

Obviously, the higher the denier count the less prone the material will be likely to rip, snag, tear, and damage caused the sun's UV rays. Most expandable hoses have an outer shell made from 500 Denier polyester. If you see a hose made from a material with less than a 500 Denier count, you may want to keep shopping. The benefit to using a cloth-like material is that it will expand and contract easily, allowing you to roll the hose into a small flat package.

The Inner Core

There are two different types of inner core used in today's expandable garden hose, latex and TPC (thermoplastic copolyester). Each of which has their own advantages.

The Latex Inner Core

This type of inner core is crafted from natural latex and can be made in a single, double, or triple layer construction. The more cores the longer the hose is likely to last longer than most other types of hose. The layers are thin enough to remain completely flexible even when cold.

One thing to keep in mind, if the package or the listing doesn't say made from natural latex, you should assume

The TPC Inner Core

Thermoplastic copolyester is a man-made highly elastic and flexible material that is not only used to make hoses, it has many other uses. Manufacturers say it offers excellent heat resistance and high durability ratings.

How Many Layers

One of the most common differences between the different expandable garden hoses is the number of layers the inner core is made from. You are likely to hear that a triple layer core is stronger and better than a double layer core. But, under independent testing, both appeared to be equally strong.

Layered latex is created by dipping an existing latex tube in molten latex and then letting it cool. The number of times it is dipped the higher the number of layers. Each layer is intended to add strength to the original pipe, but at the same time, each layer added reduces the amount of flexibility the finished product has.

Some manufacturers use a special type of polymer for the outer layer instead of more latex. Among the most common combinations is a latex core with thick outer PVC layers.

The good news is that all of the options make an excellent choice for your next expandable garden hose.

The Benefits of an Expandable Garden Hose

There are many great benefits to replacing your old rubber or PVC hoses with the latest in expandable garden hoses.

The Pros:

  1. Lightweight – did you know a long rubber hose filled with water can weigh up to 50 lbs.? An expandable hose typically weighs less than 5lbs with no water in it.
  2. Water drains out – the water automatically drains out if you leave the end open.
  3. Easy storage – no hose reel needed, you can hang these hoses on a peg out of the way.
  4. Reduced kinking – by their design, these hoses are naturally resistant to kinking and tangling.
  5. Expands – this is the biggest advantage of all, these hoses expand to three times their size when filled with water. And they go back to their original size when you are done.

The Cons:

  1. Quality control does seem to be a problem with some manufacturers, be sure you buy your expandable garden hose from a reputable manufacturer with good reviews.
  2. People don't read the instructions and get confused about how these hoses work.

That's about it as far as cons go. Once these hoses were more of a joke than they were a useful product. Thanks to major advances in technology and materials, today's expandable garden hoses are well-worth investing in and will certainly take the strain off your back moving them around.

With all of this in mind, I took a look at many of the different expandable garden hoses out there before I chose the ones I am currently using.  Here are my five picks for the best Expandable Garden Hoses available today.

Glayko Tm Expandable Garden Hose

This expandable garden hose features a double inner layer TPC core, brass fittings, and expands to 100 feet. This is three times its original length. The hose is extremely lightweight, making it easier for you to carry it around the yard. The included spray nozzle offers eight different spray patterns and comes with 2 spare rubber washers.

Pros Cons
Expands and contracts rapidly Spray nozzle inexpensively made
Weighs only 4 lbs. Some people have trouble getting it to expand
Expands to 100 feet

GrowGreen ALL NEW 2018 Garden Hose 50 Feet

This expandable garden hose starts out at 17 feet and expands to 50 feet when filled with water. Weighs an incredible 1.85 lbs. The inner core is made of latex and PVC and all fittings are made of brass. The hose is covered in a high-quality polyester cloth wrap for added strength. Comes with an 8-pattern spray nozzle, and a rust-free shutoff valve.

Pros Cons
Very lightweight at only 1.85 lbs. Tends to kink
Strong polyester cloth outer protective layer. Some issues with splitting
Comes with spray nozzle and shutoff valve May not stay extended all the way

FlexiHose Upgraded Expandable 50 FT Garden Hose, Extra Strength

The FlexiHose expandable garden hose is long enough to be convenient without being ridiculously long. It comes with 3/4″ solid brass fittings and a double latex inner core designed to handle water pressures up to 12 BARS. Collapsed size is only 17 feet, but it expands to 50 feet when filled. Comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee. Comes with an 8-pattern spray nozzle.

Pros Cons
Double latex inner layer for strength and durability The inner liner has been found to leak after the first few months of use for some
Solid brass 3/4-inch fittings Spray nozzle is of inferior quality
Lifetime free replacement warranty Problems reaching full extension

Elk & Bear Strongest Expandable Garden Hose with Brass Fittings

This expandable garden hose goes from 16 to 50 feet under pressure and will quickly return to its original size when you are done with it. The inner core is made from latex and is covered with a 5000D high-quality fabric outer shell. Fittings are solid brass for maximum durability. This expandable hose also comes with a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer.

Pros Cons
Latex inner core Inner core prone to leaks
5000D outer layer Nozzle under par
Lifetime warranty Issues with it reaching full length

The FitLife Best Expandable Garden Hose

This FitLife expandable garden hose is available in four different sizes, 25, 50, 75, 100foott lengths. It features the strongest triple latex inner core, solid brass fittings. The 3/4-inch inner diameter provides you with plenty of kink free water. Comes with an 8-position spray nozzle. Burst-tested to 145 PSI/10 Bar and endurance tested for 1100 to 1200 uses to ensure quality.

Pros Cons
Triple latex inner core Tends to cause pressure loss
Solid brass fittings Does not reach full extension
Pressure tested to 145 PSI/ 10 Bar Tends to shrink during use

What If I Want a Standard Garden Hose

Can't think of a single reason why you would want one, after all the good things expandable garden hoses have to offer. But, here is one you might find fits in with your needs and tastes.

Water Right 400 Series Polyurethane Slim & Light Drinking Water Safe Garden Hose

This non-expandable garden hose is made from FDA and NSF certified polyurethane resin. This means you can use it to water your garden or to supply you with drinking water. It contains no BPA, lead, Phthalates, or any other form of toxic chemical. All brass fittings and remains flexible in sub-freezing temperatures. This hose can also handle hot water to 140°F.

Pros Cons
NSF and FDA certified
Lightweight polyurethane resin
Contains no toxic materials

Down to the Last Kink

Or in this case, maybe not a kink at all. Expandable garden hoses are more than worth the cost but, be prepared as few of them perform quite as well as advertised. Yet they are still better than lugging a heavy-duty rubber hose all over your yard. I hope this information helps you find the right hose for your garden needs. Have information you would like to see here, drop me a line here and I might add it. Don't forget to tell your friends if you like what you see.

Everything a Homeowner Ought to Know About Landscaping Timbers

Everything a Homeowner Ought to Know About Landscaping Timbers

wood-backyard-landscaping-timbersImage courtesy of Ahigo Home Inspiration

One of the greatest things about landscaping timbers, is that when used properly, they can turn even the ugliest of yards into a work of art. Working with landscape timbers can prove to be more than a little challenging for the average Do-It-Yourselfer. But, not to worry as long as you take your time, have the right information and tools, you will soon find yourself the king of landscaping.

How to Choose the Right Landscaping Timber

There is only one thing that will affect your choice of landscaping timber more than anything else. This is how you plan to use it. For example, lumber that is going underground is typically pressure treated. Others, such as redwood, cedar, and cypress are used for their beauty. Let's look at each of the most common types of landscape timber.


red_timberImage courtesy of Redwood Outlet

Many people choose redwood timbers for their natural rustic good looks. This wood is great for framing gardens, making outdoor furniture, decking rails, and many other projects.

Over the course of time redwood fades to welcoming brown/gray color. If you prefer the red color, there are sealants that can help.


cypress-woodImage courtesy of Caribbean Teak

One of the best things about cypress, is that this wood is naturally resistant to rot. Those who live in the Southeast choose it over redwood due to availability and price. But this changes the further west you go and cypress


cedar-woodImage courtesy of Carribean Teak

Like cypress, cedar is naturally rot-resistant and loved for being light in weight yet exceptional durability. Experts say you should only use common grade cedar for above ground purposes.

However, you can use heartwood cedar for posts and many near ground applications. It will fade to colors ranging from tan to light gray. If you apply sealant, it will turn dark gray. It can also be stained to any color you want.

Pressure Treated Lumber

Pressure_Treated_6_6Image courtesy of Southside Lumber

Pressure treated landscaping timbers can be used both above and in the ground. The wood is soaked in a chemical preservative under pressure. The pressure is used to drive the preservative deeper into the center of the wood.

In most cases, the lumber is easy to spot as it has a greenish color to it and may feel damp to the touch. Never use pressure treated lumber or old railroad ties around your food gardens as they can leach toxic chemicals into the ground. Learn more about pressure treated lumber here

Composite Landscaping Timbers

composite_landscape_timbersImage courtesy of Avimarksuccess.Com

There is a wide variety of composite landscaping timber products on the market. Most look like wood, can be cut like wood, even act like wood, with one big difference, they last longer.

Some are made from wood fibers mixed with resins or plastics and then formed to shape. They come in a variety of colors, can be painted, and are very resistant to rot, decay, insects, and require no sealants.

These timbers are virtually maintenance free. The only thing you should ever need to do is wash it off with the hose from time to time.

How is Pressure Treated Lumber Created?


You can't miss new pressure treated lumber, it tends to have a strange smell, is green in color, and more often than not is still wet on the inside. Everyone tells you not to use pressure treated lumber by your fruit or vegetable gardens. But, do you know why? Is this still true? Let's take a look.

In the early days the chemicals used to pressure treat lumber contained chromated copper arsenate or CCA. CCA is a mixture of copper, chromium, and arsenic, and is known to be toxic if ingested. Over the course of time, CCA was found to be leaching out of the timbers and into the ground where it found its way into the fruits and vegetable growing there.

Under new rules from the EPA, the amount of CCA and uses for lumber that has been preserved by it have been restricted. However, the chemical bath and pressurization methods have not changed in decades. The lumber is placed in a tank and a vacuum is applied to the tank. As the chemical is introduced into the tank, the negative pressure sucks it into the wood.

Once the cycle is complete, the lumber is removed to be air or kiln dried and the remaining solution recycled for the next tankful. If you plan to work with pressure treated lumber you should wear leather work gloves and use saw blades that are designed to be used in this type of lumber. Using the wrong kind of blade, can overload your electric saw motor causing it to burn out.

What Should You Be Looking for in Landscaping Timbers?

timber=landscapeImage courtesy of RemoveandReplace.Com

So now that you have a little bit of an idea what each type of landscaping timber has to offer, let's take a look at what you should be looking for when you go shopping.

Keep in mind that the you need to match beauty with function, form, and durability.   No one landscapes their yard with the idea that they are going to be replacing their hard work every couple of years.

Face it, the last thing you want to do, is to have no choice but to rip out your hard work just because the materials you chose did not stand up to the conditions they were exposed to.

Pressure Treated Lumber Issues

treated -woodImage courtesy of Gardening Know How

But at the same time, if you are planning a vegetable garden ora fruit plant bedd, the last thing you want to do is introduce the chemicals found in CCA (Chromium, copper, arsenic) into the ground around your gardens.

The pressure treated lumber being sold today has a significantly lower level of CCA in it, but there is still the risk of it leaching into the ground in your gardens still exists. Keep the use of pressure treated lumber restricted to other areas of your yard such as lining driveways or building raised flower beds.

Worth noting, is that even pressure treated lumber will rot over the course of time, yet it will outlast most other forms of landscaping timbers.

Shape Plays a Part

Timbers - ShapeImage courtesy of Picturesmo.Com

While you might not realize it, the shape of the timbers plays a role in how successful your project is. While those perfectly round timbers might be appealing, they can be very hard to work with if you are building any type of wall.  

A much better choice is to choose timbers that have two flat sides and two rounded sides. These are much easier to stack when crating walls, surrounds, flower garden surrounds, and anywhere you plan to install a landscaping timber wall.

Railroad Ties

railrpad_tiesImage courtesy pf Pacific Western Lumber

Landscapers and homeowners alike have been using railroad ties for more decades than most can remember. These timbers seem to last practically forever, but then they were soaked in creosote before they were used or sold.

Creosote is a preservative that has been used in railroad ties and phone poles to help preserve them for years. But, like the CCA used in pressure treating, creosote can leach out into the soil and into anything you plant there.

They are great to use for building retaining walls, walkways, foundations, and more, but never use them  around your vegetable garden.

What About Plastic Landscaping Timbers

plastic-landscaping-timbersImage courtesy of Christopher Sherwin.Com

In recent years, we have seen the rise of reliable plastic landscaping timbers. They come in an incredibly diverse range of shapes, sizes, and colors. They do not leach toxins into the ground, do not rot, and will last for many years.

They are easy to work with, and are perfect for use around vegetable gardens, sandboxes, and anywhere your kids are likely to play. However, they are not as strong as natural wood timbers and are prone to swelling in size and warping in the sun.

Alternatives Using Landscape Timbers

timber-garden-soil-erorionImage courtesy of Lowes

If you prefer not to use landscaping timbers, there are other alternatives for you to consider. Both bricks and pavers are fairly inexpensive and unlike wood are not subject to the effects of time. They will not rot or become infested with damaging insects.

Some professionals have gone to using metal borders around ground level gardens as it is reasonably durable and can be painted.  

Concrete Pavers

Landscaping-Timbers - Concrete -PaversImage courtesy of Pic2Viral.Com

One of the greatest things about today's concrete pavers, is that they come in an incredibly diverse range of sizes, shapes, and colors. Assembly is easy as you simply stack them to match the shape of the area you wish to enclose or the path you want to build.

They require virtually no maintenance unless you want to rinse them off from time to time. Depending on the style you choose, concrete pavers can be a relatively inexpensive option.


timber-brick-wall-landscapeImage courtesy of RogerGladwell.Co.Uk

Bricks make another good alternative to landscaping timbers. They can be a little more expensive that cement pavers. But, like pavers, they last forever and come in a range of styles, shapes, and colors. This makes them perfect for use in a number of applications.

You can simply stack them to create the walls or if you are sure you aren’t going to move them, cemented together to form a stronger structure. If you are building a long wall, be prepared as this is going to take a while and be sure you have a good pair of heavy duty leather gloves to protect your hands. 

The only real problem you are likely to have with concrete pavers and bricks, is that weeds and grasses tend to grow in the cracks, giving you yet another cleanup chore to add to your list. However, they are among the easiest types of border, edging, and walls to build.

The Last Word

landscape-timbersImage courtesy of Landscape Timbers

Long before you spend the first dime on landscaping timbers, you need to take a good look at your property and what areas you plan to landscape. This will make a big difference in the materials you choose.

One of the best things about doing your own landscaping, is that you can use a range of the different types of landscaping timbers and materials to create the yard of your dreams.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you have enjoyed learning about landscaping timber, please let me know. If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact me here

Thank you for reading this guide to landscaping timbers, I hope you found it useful.

Landscaping Ideas for Small Backyard

Smart Landscaping Ideas for Small Backyards

Smart Landscaping Ideas for Small Backyard - Image title

Make the most of your small backyard...

ALTHOUGH SMALL YARDS ARE small. They also can pack a big punch. These 21 ideas will help homeowners with any size yard make the most out of a small space.


Image courtesy of Slodive.Com

1. Clever Storage Choices

Don't let a lack of storage space in your yard hold you back. Make sure you use all the vertical space you can & add some design elements. This one looks fantastic!


Image courtesy of Pinterest

2. Use Corners Efficiently

This open seating arrangement maximizes the backyard space by being hard up in the corner. Not only does it look inviting, but it also provides the homeowners an outdoor place to relax and admire the garden.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

3. Think Big but Build Small

​Here is a working outdoor space for the avid outdoor entertainers and foodies. A great example of having an idea, and making it work in a small space. (I wonder if there are any herbs in that garden)


Image courtesy of ThorPLC.Com

4. Making the Most of a Quiet Corner

There is nothing quite like making the most of a quiet corner of your yard. The pavers create a pretty pattern, while the rock wall and flower gardens create an inviting space to relax with a nice cup of coffee or tea. (Or in this case a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice)


Image courtesy of ParisSalon.US

5. A Bridge Over Troubled Waters

This homeowner obviously loves having a really big pond in his yard. Notice how he solved his problem of where to put the firepit and chairs. This pond is big enough for a number of koi which make a beautiful addition to any pond.


Image courtesy Lushome

6. Concrete Beauty All Around

Who said concrete can't be used to create beauty. From the concrete vases filled with glorious flowers to the raised concrete pathways. Note the two seats tucked away in a shady corner at the back and out of the way.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

7. Build Your Backyard World with Bricks

Bricks make the perfect material for building an inviting place in the backyard. The round pattern fits in perfectly with the overall look of this patio while the wood furniture and fire pit create a warm and relaxing place to spend your evenings.


Image courtesy of Fantastic View Point

8. Large Rocks for a Small Space

You might be amazed at how much using larger paving rocks can take a small space and make it look so much bigger. Here we see them being used to create a unique patio and a lovely backdrop for the pond. Imagine sitting out here for your morning cup of coffee!


Image courtesy of Pinterest

9. Tucked Away in the Shade

The loveseat and chairs tucked in the shade trees offer a quiet place to relax with a few friends. Note the chimenea sitting on the deck, perfect for those chilly evenings when no one really wants to be inside.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

10. Up, Up and Away from it All

Instead of keeping everything on the level, this homeowner has created a raised platform at the end of his yard to relax on and added a trellis above for shade. Hopefully, they are going to train some form of climbing plant like honeysuckle to grow over the trellis for even more shade and beauty.


Image courtesy of ThorPLC.Com

11. Keeping it Simple

In the past few years, gazebos have gained in popularity. This one is beautifully done with wood framework and legs set inside of brick piers. The corrugated fiberglass roof keeps the sun and rain at bay so that the homeowner can enjoy his backyard even if it rains.


Image courtesy of PlanetAdeco

12. Privacy Plus in the Corner

This homeowner chose to create a quiet private spot in a corner of his yard using trellises. Not only do they add privacy, but they can be used for a variety of climbing plants. You could use decorative plants or those that bear fruit to make the area even more useful.


13. Portable Plants Make the Difference

Even if all you have to work with is a brick patio in your back yard, there is no reason you can't still have plenty of plants. This homeowner uses an incredible variety of planters, note that many of them appear to be on wheels so that they can be moved when needed. The birdhouse on a stand adds a nice touch too!


Image courtesy of Design Ideas

14. Gazebos Are All the Rage

In the past few years, gazebos have gained in popularity. This one is beautifully done with wood framework and legs set inside of brick piers. The corrugated fiberglass roof keeps the sun and rain at bay so that the homeowner can enjoy his backyard even if it rains.


Image courtesy of Landscaping Gallery.Net

15. Tucked Away in the Corner


Image courtesy of WooHome

16. Anyone for Lemonade?

This homeowner has made the most of this corner, instead of covering everything over with pavers, he chose to leave one corner open for shrubs or trees and surround it with a flowering hedge. Lovely place to relax with an ice-cold glass of lemonade.


Image courtesy of CoWorker

17. A Little Bit of Everything

This homeowner seems to like a little bit of everything. He uses trellis climbing plants, topiary, rock, and brick to create an unusual, slightly chaotic, but wonderfully inviting spot in his yard for a cup of tea in the morning.


Image courtesy of Pinterest

18. You Don't Need a Huge Yard

Just because you only have a small yard to work with doesn't mean you can't make the most of it. This homeowner created a beautiful blend of lawn with an incredible array of plants, flowers, and shrubs. A true example of making the most of what you have.


Image courtesy of Mail Online

19. Plenty of Food for the Bees

Rather than looking at the brick patio, take a good look at the wide variety of flowering plants this homeowner has planted. Not only are they going to be beautiful all summer long, but they provide plenty of food for the local honeybee population.


Image courtesy of Good Housekeeping

20. Anyone for Lemonade?

This homeowner has made the most of this corner, instead of covering everything over with pavers, he chose to leave one corner open for shrubs or trees and surround it with a flowering hedge. Lovely place to relax with an ice-cold glass of lemonade.


Image courtesy of Garden Design

21. It's in the Angles

This homeowner seems to be enamored with angles as every facet of his backyard design contains perfect rectangles. Worth noting is the fact he is using most of his garden space to grow food rather than flowers. Also, note the creeping vines that are starting to cover the fence for added privacy.

In Summary...

Thanks for reading our guide on smart landscaping ideas for small backyard. If you have any comments or queries, please use the contact form.

Related Articles:

How to Level a Yard, Lawn or Garden

How to Level a Yard, Lawn or Garden

Once You Know How to Level a Yard You Can Go Out and Get Started Straight Away

It may seem like a lot of work, but leveling your yard isn't as hard as it seems

DO YOU GET TIRED OF walking across your lawn watching out for divots that are deep enough to break an ankle? Is the slope in your garden so steep that the water runs downhill before it has a chance to soak in and do any good? If you not sure how to level a yard, follow along as I go through the tools and steps needed to cure this problem once and for all.

Both my front and back yards were a mess when we first moved in. But with a little hard work, the right tools, and a little dedication, you can have a nice smooth lawn and gardens that suffer little in the way of runoff.

The #1 Thing to Remember

The most important thing to remember is the soil needs to be moist before you get started. If your soil is dry and dusty, you need to water it until it is moist to a depth of at least 6 inches.

But at the same time, if your soil is too wet, it will be hard to work with. In this case, you will need to wait until it has enough time to dry out a bit. Wet soil is very heavy and can be hard to work with.

Tools You Will Need to Level Your Yard and Garden

The first step in learning how to level a yard or garden is knowing what tools you will need to get the done and done right the first time. No one wants to have to re-level their lawn once the sod has been laid or the seed has started to grow.

 Workers laying turf on a flat backyard surface with garden gloves on

Laying the lawn is the easy part, it's getting everything level beforehand that takes time, skill and cause frustration

So, let's take a good look at the tools you will need:

Alternative tools:

  • Hammer
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Measuring tape

Remember that a landscaping rake should have a head that is approximately 3 feet wide and has heavy duty tines made for dragging large amounts of dirt.

Leveling Bare Ground

If you are putting in a new garden, laying new sod, or simply planting grass seed on bare land, you must level the ground first. The first step is to mark off the area you plan to work with and then determine how out of level it happens to be. There are two methods of doing this:

Using a larger piece of straight lumber will help extend your level and make the job easier

Using a larger piece of lumber underneath your level will extend it and can make the job easier

Method #1 - Using a Spirit Level

If you have never used a spirit of carpenter's level, it is a simple device consisting of a 36-inch long aluminum bar with three different bubble indicators mounted on it. One is for horizontal, one is for vertical level, and one is for measuring a 45-degree angle.

As you can see, 'the bubble' on the level has two lines on it and a bubble that floats in the liquid. When the bubble is centered between the lines, the item you are measuring is level.

To use your spirit level on a large patch of dirt, simply add an 8-foot 2 x 4 (or any long, straight piece of material) underneath your level. This way, you can measure over a longer area of your yard. (Look down the length of the 2 x 4 to check it is straight before using)

To start leveling, simply place the 2 x 4 assembly across the ground and check for level. Be sure to check in both directions and allow for one edge to be slightly lower to assist with drainage.

This method works best for freshly tilled soil that is mostly flat and all you are trying to do is determine any slopes. You can use it for lawns and gardens with equal effectiveness.

Using stakes and string is one way to level a lawn

Method #2 - Using Stakes and a String Line 

This method can be used on new ground for lawns or gardens and to help you find low and high spots.

  1. Hammer a stake into the ground at the highest point in your yard
  2. Hammer a stake into the ground at the lowest point in your yard
  3. Tie a string between stakes making sure it is pulled nice and tight
  4. Place a line level on the string line to ensure the string is level. (Not sure what a line level is, here is an example)
  5. Then measure the height of the string on both stakes to help you determine how much of slope you have to deal with

If you are looking for high and low spots there are a few extra steps:

The steps are the same up to the point where the string is level

Then use a tape measure to help you find the low and high spots along the line (you will need to repeat this at regular intervals all the way across the yard)

The best way to do this is to create a grid search pattern and write down the measurements based on where they were taken on a grid.

It might look something like this:

End of YardSide of Yard
  • Red numbers indicate low spots

  • Green numbers indicate high spots

  • All measurements are in inches

While this might be a bit time consuming (as in taking a few hours), if you are truly intent on having a nice even lawn to mow or play on, this is the best way. You can also use this method to help you create a perfectly flat garden.

6 Steps to a Flat Lawn

How to Level a Yard - Gardener removing lawn without damaging it

If you are working on a small patch of your lawn that needs to be leveled up to meet the rest of it, remove the grass by cutting under it with a shovel and removing it like sod. Set the grass aside to replace once you have created a level area. If you are working with bare ground, can skip this step.

  1. Cover the bare ground with a mixture of topsoil, sand, and either compost, manure, or fertilizer. You need the soil to be nutrient rich in order to give your lawn a good start
  2. Using your landscaper's rake, spread the mixture out until it covers the entire area in what looks to be a uniform layer. You can use the string and measuring tape method above to keep an eye on how level your new soil is
  3. Using a water-filled roller, tamp the soil down (if you are working on a very small area you can use your foot)
  4. Mist the soil with water until it is nice and damp (it does not need to be soaked)
  5. Leave to settle for 48 hours
  6. Measure at multiple spots and correct any low or high spots you find using the same mixture and tamp in place.

How Long Will it Take?

Depending on how fussy you want to be (it took me a week to get my yard where I wanted it to be, but then I'm a bit OCD when it comes to things like this), you may have to make several adjustments using the method above.

Remember, the more you do at the beginning the fewer problems you are likely to have in the end.

Once you are satisfied that you have finally figured out how to level a yard, you can replace the sod previously removed, install all new sod, or plant with grass seed. All you have to do now is wait for your perfectly flat lawn to grow in green and healthy.

What If You Have a Few Low Spots in an Existing Lawn?


You don’t need to learn how to level a yard starting with bare ground. If you are only worried about patching a few low or high spots in your lawn, the whole process is very similar to leveling bare ground. Let's take a closer look at the whole process.

First, you need to use the stake and string line method above to create your working grid of high and low spots. In most cases, you will have more low spots than high ones.

Low Spots

  1. Cut the sod from these spots carefully and set them aside
  2. Using a mixture of manure/compost, topsoil, and sand, fill in the spot to a point just far enough below the surrounding ground to allow the sod to be replaced
  3. Stamp this area down using your foot and then mist with water to help it settle
  4. Wait 48 hours and check to make sure it hasn't settled too much (if it has, simply add more soil and repeat the process)
  5. Once the area is level and just below flush, replace the sod and stamp it down
  6. Water the area and let the grass root in place

A fun video that shows how this is done:

High Spots

These have to be treated a little differently as there is already too much soil in place.

  1. Cut the sod from the area and set aside for future use
  2. Using a shovel slowly reduce the height of the soil by removing it one shovelful at a time
  3. Continue doing this until the entire area is level just below the surface, leaving just enough room for you to replace the sod
  4. Water the area and allow it to sit for 48 hours
  5. Recheck your measurements and level
  6. If all is good (by now it should be) replace the sod, tamp down, and water

This guy makes it sound easy:

For both situations, be sure to save a little of that topsoil mix to fill in any gaps where the edges of the sod meet. You should also use your preferred method to check your yard or garden for level once everything has been done.

Important Notes

  • Be sure that your yard or garden retains a slope to ensure excess water runs off such as rain, ice, and snow.

  • Watering the area you plan to level a day or two beforehand can make it easier to dig.

  • Always wear closed-toe shoes when you are working with a shovel or a pickaxe for the safety of your toes.

  • Always wear gloves to protect your hands.

  • You can use a string level setup for any distance, it doesn't matter if its 30 feet or 300 feet.

On the Level

Okay, so you probably started out thinking you had to hire someone to level your yard, right? Now that you see how easy it can be if someone just gives you the right information, you probably can't wait to get started.

I hope this information and the accompanying videos help make learning how to level a yard a little bit easier for you. The most important thing to remember is that perfection takes time, be patient, work slowly and methodically and your yard will finally be perfectly level.

Thanks for reading this guide on how to level a yard, lawn or garden. You can keep in contact with us here on facebook or pinterest

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The 7 Top Options for the Best Trenching Shovel

My 7 Top Picks for Best Trenching Shovel

& Why You Won't Go Back to Not Having One

Best Trenching Shovel - A trench dug along lawn

When you have a small trench to dig, the last thing you need is the expense of renting a backhoe or mechanical trencher

YOU COULD USE ANY TYPE OF spade or digging shovel for the first foot or so of a trench. But in time, all you end up with is a backache. The right tool for the job will let you continue to work at ground level, get the job done right, and save you from a lot of unneeded soreness.

And it's that soreness that leads us to this article. Finding the best trenching shovel will save you a whole bunch of it. Because even professionals will break out the hand trenching shovel for short runs.

So lets get started and learn what a trenching shovel will do for you, what to look for and a few top picks to help you find the best one.

Man digging trench for sewerage/storm water with a wide spade

Using a wider shovel typically means moving excess dirt which is more work and stress on your back/knees digging it out, and filling it in

What is a Trenching Shovel?

This type of shovel is often referred to as a "clean out" shovel as well as a trench shovel. This is because they are designed to help you scoop up any loose soil in your trench after it has been cut. The cut can be completed by hand or by using a powered trencher.

The most important thing to remember is that the trench shovel is not designed to cut down into the soil. If you look at the design of this type of shovel, you can see that the blade is not really wide enough for you to get your foot on it.

This, in turn, means you will not be able to put enough downward pressure on the shovel for it to cut through anything but loose soil. However, the narrow design makes it the perfect shovel for cleaning out trenches that are both narrow and deep.

With this in mind, you may want to consider using a tile or drain spade to cut the sides of the trench and loosen the soil before using a trenching shovel to remove the soil and to finish shaping the trench.

What Makes a Good, Durable Trench Shovel?

A trench shovel should be narrow in design and feature perfectly straight sides and a pointed end. The straight sides are used to help keep the edges of your trench nice and straight, while the point makes it easier to scoop out any remaining soil.

Like any other piece of gardening equipment, the last thing you want to have to do is go out and spend more money replacing it because you bought the wrong one. So, what should you be looking for when buying this type of shovel?

There are 5 main parts. Here we go over them in detail

The collar of a Razorback Trench Shovel in action

A Razorback trenching shovel in action. Image courtesy of Home Depot

#1 - The Blade

This is perhaps the most important part of any shovel, whether you are buying one for trenching or digging holes in your backyard. There are three types of shovel blades, those with pointed tips, those with rounded ends, and those with square ends. All three will do the job, but each has its own advantages:

  • Pointed end – goes into the ground more easily

  • Rounded end – goes into the ground easily and does a better job of scooping up loose soil

  • Square end – makes scooping larger amounts of soil easier

They also have their disadvantages:

  • Pointed end – not very efficient at scooping soil

  • Rounded end – less efficient at scooping

  • Square end – not made to cut into soil

Always choose a blade that is made from steel as they tend to be stronger and are more likely to give you many years of service for your money (my personal preference as I hate wasting money). Look for tempered or forged steel for maximum value.

Also look for one that has a lip at the top of the blade that gives you somewhere to apply pressure with your foot. (Nothing hurts worse than trying to press down on the sharp edge of a blade that doesn't have this lip.

#2 - The Handle

Handles are typically either fiberglass or wood, both of which are truly fine for this type of work as they should never be subjected to heavy twisting as you might expect when digging a hole.

If you are going to look for one with a wood handle, Ash and hickory are the most commonly used materials as these hardwoods can stand up to a lot of abuse. One tip though, be sure the grain runs along the length of the handle as this ensures maximum strength.

#3 - The Grip

Any fiberglass handled shovel you buy is going to have some form of grip that covers the area where you might commonly put your hands. This is done to protect your hands in the event the fiberglass should splinter.

Depending on the length of the handle, a "D" style handle may be used (especially on shorter handles) to give you more control. Some wood handles are nothing more than a long length of wood without any form of handle. Again, you have to decide which style is likely to work best for you.

The collar of a bully tools trenching shovel

A close up of a collar. Image courtesy of Bully Tools

#4 - The Collar

The collar is the point at which the handle and the blade come together. Less expensive shovels are built with the handle being trimmed to fit tightly into the collar where they might be secured in place using a screw or a nail.

This could eventually become a problem as the wood ages and the screw or nail becomes loose in the handle and falls out. The best trenching shovels feature at least one, if not more, rivet that runs completely through from one side to the other to ensure maximum durability.

#5 - The Step

This is where the top of the blade has been folded over to give you somewhere to put your foot to help force the shovel into the ground. While the step doesn't need to be excessively wide, it needs to be wide enough for your foot to fit and allow you to apply the required pressure without hurting the bottom of your foot.

While some come without a step, look for those that do, you will find them much easier to work with.

Best Trenching Shovel - Man digging large trench by hand

Caring for Your Shovel

No matter what type of shovel or shovels you finally decide to add to your collection, if you don't take good care of them, you will be replacing them on a frequent basis.

The best way to store a steel-bladed shovel is to place it head down into a 5-gallon bucket that has been filled with sand that has oil mixed into it. This mixture will keep out moisture and stop your shovel from rusting.

If you buy a shovel that has a wooden handle, it should last for decades. But, if you want to ensure it does, you should wipe it down to remove any dirt. Then take a rag that has been lightly soaked in linseed oil and wipe every inch of the handle. The oil will help keep the wood protected and prevent it from decaying over the years.

The Top 7 Trenching Shovels

There are so many different types and brands of trench shovel on the market, finding the right one can be challenging. However, armed with the information above, you should have a better than average chance of finding exactly what you need.

Bear in mind (if the wife says it o.k., you can always have more than one shovel in your garden tool inventory). Here then are my top 7 picks for best trenching shovel:

Seymour S702 48-inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel

Five-inch-wide blade and a 48-inch handle make clearing trenches easy


SEYMOUR S702 48-Inch Fiberglass Handle Trenching Shovel

This trenching shovel from Seymour comes with a 48-inch long fiberglass handle and features a rounded tip blade that makes digging and clearing trenches much easier.

The blade features rear-rolled steps designed to make digging and cleaning out much easier. The PermaGrip® collar ensures you never have to worry about the blade coming loose from the handle. It also features a cushioned grip handle for more comfort while you work.

48 – inch long handleFiberglass handle has a lot of flex
Cushion grip handleMay receive a Structron brand, not Seymour (same company)
Round tip for easier diggingSome are shipped with a front roll instead of rear roll step

Razor Back 4705 Wood Handle Trenching Shovel

Natural hardwood handle for added durability


UNION TOOLS Razorback Clean Out Ditch/Trench Shovel Ash 48 " Industrial Gauge 3 " X 11 "

This trench shovel offers a uniquely shaped blade that has been designed specifically for digging and cleaning out trenches. It features a 4-inch wide blade that is perfect for use in narrow trenches such as those you might dig to install a sprinkler system in your yard or garden.

The blade is made from heavy gauge tempered steel for added durability and features a front rolled step for added foot comfort. The blade and handle are riveted together to ensure they remain tightly connected.

47.5 – inch long hardwood handleNot for initial digging of trench
Forward turned step for secure foot placementHead to handle angle is a bit much for some
Riveted for extra-strong head to handle connectionStep needs to be a little wider for comfort

Kobalt Long-Handle Fiberglass Trenching Spade

Pointed tip makes sinking this one in the ground simple


KOBALT Long-Handle Fiberglass Trenching Spade

This trenching spade features a heavy-duty 5-inch wide blade made from tempered steel that is more than strong enough to get the job done. The blade has a pointed end that lets you break tough ground and work in rocky soil.

The fiberglass handle has a 9-inch cushioned grip to help give you more control and reduce hand fatigue. The extra-wide rear-turned step gives your foot a more stable platform to work with and more stability.

Heavy-duty tempered steel bladeFiberglass handle flexes
Wide rear-turned step for more stabilityBlade may fold if used in high-clay soil
Sharp point makes sinking blade into ground easyHandle breaks where it enters the blade

Corona-SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel – 4-inch

V-angled head for better penetration


CORONA SS 64104 General Purpose Trench Shovel, 4-Inch

The V-angled head of this trenching shovel makes it easy to use for penetrating a wide range of soil types. The 1-inch sides make it much easier to retain the soil you have scooped instead of watching it slide off the sides.

Features a 48-inch long ash hardwood handle for maximum durability. The extra-deep sides also give the blade more structural rigidity for those harder tasks such as working in clay-heavy soil.

48-inch ash handle for strength and durability35-degree handle makes digging challenging
13-guage steel bladeNot the best choice for heavy soils
Pointed end great for digging into soilHard to keep foot on top of blade

Ames 14-inch True American Drain Spade

D-handle gives you more control


AMES 14-Inch True American Drain Spade - 1564700

The D-handle on this drain spade makes it much easier for you to maintain control while you are digging or scooping the soil out of your trench. Features a 14-inch long tempered steel blade and a round tip that makes it much easier for you to cut in the sides of your trench.

The hardwood handle is designed to provide you with years of flawless service. The blade features forward-turned steps for more secure foot placement while digging.

D-handle for more controlPlastic handle may break
Hardwood handle for maximum durabilityShort handle can be hard on your back
Strong blade doesn't bendBlade needs to be sharpened before use

Nupla SS14L-E Ergo Power Sharp Shooters Drain Spade

Ergo-grip for added comfort while digging


NUPLA SS14L-E Ergo Power Sharp Shooters Drain Spade

This "sharp shooter" shovel features a 16-guage super heavy-duty steel blade. This blade has forward-turned steps for better foot placement and a hollow back design.

The handle is 48-inches long and has an oversized ergonomically designed end that improves your grip and gives you more control., The fiberglass handle has a polystyrene core that is surrounded by a polypropylene sleeve that adds strength, chemical and weather resistance, and durability to the assembly.

Multi-layer handle for durabilityHandle has a lot of flex
16-guage steel blade is very strongToe step is too narrow
Ergonomic handle takes some of the pain awayBlade needs to be longer

The Bully Tools 72530 Commercial Grade Long Handle Drain Spade

Great for narrower trenches


BULLY TOOLS 72530 Commercial Grade Long Handle Drain Spade

This drain spade is ideal for smaller trenches as it features an extra-thick steel blade that measures 3-inches wide and 12-inches long. The closed-back design helps to reduce debris build up.

The handle is made from wood reinforced fiberglass for superior strength. In fact, you are more likely to bend the blade before you can break the handle. The extra length ferrules and welded I-beam supports work together to create an extra-strong shovel.

Wood reinforced fiberglass handle is extra toughPoint is blunt and must be sharpened
Extra-long ferrules and welded I-beamsBlade is only 3-inches wide instead of 4
Heavy-gauge blade does not bendWood/fiberglass handle not covered under warranty

If a Trench Shovel Is Not What You Want

While the trenching shovel may be your best option, it may not be the most efficient tool for the job. Another very popular option is the Trenching Hoe or Grub Hoe. This very easy to use tool can make digging smaller trenches go smoothly and quickly. In fact, all you have to do is use the hoe to chop into the ground and then drag the soil up and out of the way.

Bully Tools 92354 12-Gauge Warren Hoe

A new approach to digging trenches


BULLY TOOLS 92354 12-Gauge Warren Hoe with Fiberglass Handle

The Warren Hoe from Bully tools features a fiberglass handle that is weather and chemical resistant and features a cushioned grip. The blade is made from extra-thick 12-gauge commercial grade steel. The head measures 5" x 6.5" allowing you to cut the size of trench you need with ease.

The handle is made from wood reinforced fiberglass for maximum rigidity and durability. The handle measures 6 feet long.

6-foot-long wood reinforced handleHeavy
Handle is securely attachedLong handle can be hard to use
Very sturdily builtBlade has no edge needs to be filed

Rounding It All Up

When you have a trench to dig, you need the right tools to get the job done with the least amount of work, stress, strain, and pain. You can use either a trench shovel or a trenching hoe to get the job done, personally, I have both to make sure I can get the job done in a hurry. I like the two from Bully Tools as not only are they made in the U.S.A. but they offer great value for my money.

  • If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

  • Thank you for reading this guide on finding the best trenching shovel. I hope it has helped.

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[GUIDE] An Introduction to Soil pH Tester Kits

[GUIDE] An Introduction to Soil pH Tester Kits

Using Soil Ph Tester Kits to Test Soil in Garden Bed

Testing soil will give you peace of mind, and maximum plant health and productivity

NOW THAT YOU HAVE the spot picked out for your garden and have it all cleared and ready to go, the next step is to determine the quality of the soil.

You can, of course, take a small sample and send it off to the UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab for analysis. But this can take a lot of time and be a little expensive. A much better option is to use a soil pH tester kit and do it yourself.

So let's take a look at what you should be looking for in a soil pH test kit to make sure you don't waste your money. Before you rush out to the nearest garden center or department store.

Why You Need a Soil pH Tester Kit

In short, maintaining the proper pH balance of your soil is vital to the healthy growth of everything you plan to plant in your garden.

For example, if your garden has a high level of calcium in it, the soil will be more alkaline. On the other hand, if there is a high level of phosphorus in your soil, it will be more acidic.

Most plants require certain amounts of each in order to flourish. However, if the soil is too acidic or alkaline, your plants will not thrive and provide you with maximum harvest. This is the main reason why you need to buy a pH tester and keep a close eye on the pH balance of your soil.

a close up of a soil ph tester kit during a test

An example of a chemical colored dye soil ph tester kit

Three Different Types of Test Kits

There are, in fact, a total of three different types of soil pH test kits on the market today, pH strips, pH colored dyes, and electronic pH testers. The issue with strips and dyes however, is neither of them is capable of giving you accurate results you can rely on. You also need to buy every test you intend to do.

This leaves only the electronic pH testers. Electronic testers are able to provide you with almost instantaneous results that, depending on the brand/model you buy. They give you accurate results you can rely on. Also ph testers in this category are reusable. All you need to do to reuse the tester is to clean the soil off it.

One thing to keep in mind if you have never used a soil pH tester before is to be sure that the tester kit you get comes with a very complete set of instructions. Not only should the instructions tell you how to use the kit, but they should also tell you how to interpret the results. After all, not much good having a series of test results if you have no idea what they mean, right?

The instructions should also cover how to calibrate the tester to ensure you get the most accurate results possible. The problem here is that if you don’t get accurate results or are not sure how to interpret them, you can easily end up over or under-fertilizing your garden. This could leave you with a garden that does not produce the best possible results or worse yet a patch of ground full of dead plants.

Look for a Test Kit that Does More

If you want the best results, look for a soil pH test kit that does more than just measure the pH of the soil. A good testing kit will allow you to run at least four different tests on your soil.

The pH Level - the pH level of your soil should be between one and fourteen on the scale, with neutral soil sitting in the middle at a solid seven. Once you know whether your soil is acidic (under 7) or alkaline (over 7) you can adjust the type and amount of fertilizer you need to use.

Your Soil's Conductivity - Electrical conductivity is used to determine the level of naturally occurring nutrients currently in your soil. Once you have these figures, you can more accurately determine how much more fertilizer your soil needs.

Your Soil's Temperature - Different crops need different soil temperatures in order to germinate properly. You need to measure the temperature at the level you intend to plant the seeds. Rather than at the top which would be of no value with regard to helping your seeds to germinate and flourish.

Most, if not all quality seed packages will tell you the optimum soil temperature for best results.

The Level of Light - Plants all have their own very specific needs when it comes the right amount of sunlight for proper growth. Some pH tester kits have a built in light meter to help you determine how much sunlight each area of your garden receives on an average day.

I would recommend you buy a separate light meter if the kit you choose does not have one built in.

Using a a Kit

Using an electronic tester is relatively simple. Of course, the best way to make sure you are using yours the right way is to read the instructions that come with it.

The good news is that most pH testers are very similar, here are a few basic tips that should help you get started. They are common to a wide range of brands and models based on my experience.

How to use a ph tester in garden

Here is a quick video that covers using an electronic pH test:

The Top 7 Soil pH Tester Kits

So now that you have a better idea of what you should be looking for in a ph test kit, let's take a quick look at my top seven picks and what I do and don't like about them.

Luster Leaf 1605 Rapitest Digital Soil Testing Kit

Easy to read LED display and push button simplicity


LUSTER LEAF 1605 Rapitest Digital Soil Testing Kit

This pH tester is one of the more popular units on the market today and features a bright easy to read LED display rather than a meter. It will test for pH, phosphorus, nitrogen, and potash levels.

In the kit, you will find information covering the pH level requirements of more than 450 plants to help you make the right adjustments. The tester performs 25 tests, including 10 pH and 5 nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus.

InexpensiveTester does not work for all pH
Easy to follow instructionsDisplays either highest or lowest pH values
Easy to use and is not messyMay be inaccurate

Kelway PHD Soil pH Meter

Simple to use, just stick in soil and read the results


KELWAY PHD Soil PH meter

While this meter is used only to measure the pH of your soil, what attracted me to it is the fact it is so simple to use.

All you have to do is dig a hole in your garden that measures 3 - 4 inches across and approximately 5 inches deep. Fill the hole with water and let it drain out. Stick the tester in the soil and wait for the results, nothing could be easier.

One of the simplest pH testers to useOnly gives pH readings nothing more
Easy to keep cleanTakes up to 5 minutes for an accurate reading
Meter is quite accurateSoil must be wet for it to work

Environmental Concepts pH7 Dual Probe Soil PH Meter

Dual probes for more accurate readings



This pH tester has dual probes designed to give you a much more accurate set of readings.

The best part is that it does not require you to run out and buy a new set of batteries each spring. However, according to the instructions, you need to take a sample of your soil, place it in a container, and add distilled water to test it.

If you attempt to stick the probes directly into the ground, they may break. If your soil is freshly tilled and loose, this should not be a problem.

Readings are ready after one minuteProbes may break off
Ready to use straight out of the boxContainer method works but freshly tilled soil offers better results
Very inexpensiveAccuracy issues

Imurz 3-in-1 Soil Moisture Meter

Test pH, moisture, and light in one easy to use tester


imurz 3-in-1 Soil Moisture Meter

This nifty little dual probe device tests the pH of your soil, its moisture content, and the all-important amount of light each area of your garden receives during the day. It never needs a battery and has been tested to be scientifically accurate.

The single switch lets you choose between light, moisture, and pH modes. Not only can you use this tester out in the garden, but you can also use it indoors to help ensure you are not over-watering your plants.

Can be used indoors and outdoorsNot good for succulents
Does not require batteriesMeter features tiny fonts and can be hard to read
Dual probes for better accuracySuffers from low accuracy readings

Environmental Concepts 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit with 40 Tests

A very comprehensive soil pH tester kit


ENVIRONMENTAL CONCEPTS 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit with 40 Tests

While this little soil tester kit may be listed as being for use in the field or schools, it is one of the highest rated kits on the market. It comes complete with a handy and very durable case as well as one of the most comprehensive instruction manuals available.

This kit will give you extremely accurate results that will help you get the most out of your garden. The kits ease of use and highly accurate results make it one of the best on the market.

All tests are easy to completeThe plastic filtration unit comes apart at the seam
Comes with comprehensive instruction manualChemical tests may not be the best choice for some gardeners
Provides rapid resultsThe plunger system is challenging to use

Rapitest Premium Soil Test Kit Lawn Flower Plant Test Garden Tester

Affordable chemical pH tester kit with a lot to offer


RAPITEST Premium Soil Test Kit (80 Test Kit 1663)

This is yet another field pH soil tester kit that can be used by amateur gardeners, professionals, and in the classroom. It can be used to test for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash levels. Comes in a sturdy plastic carrying case and includes enough chemicals for you to complete up to 80 tests - 20 for each category of testing.

The kit also includes a set of easy to read comprehensive testing instructions. While using this type of tester may be a bit time consuming the results are well-worth the effort.

Very accurate resultsTime consuming
Tests more than just pHDoes not test for light levels
Comes with everything you need for 80 testsA little messy to use

Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Tester 1609CS

Low-cost soil pH tester kit that does more


LUSTER LEAF Rapitest Soil Tester 1609CS

This low-cost soil pH tester kit comes with enough supplies for a total of ten tests. This includes 4 x pH, and 2 x nitrogen/phosphorus/potash.

Each of the test tubes is color coded to ensure that you use the right ones for each test and to ensure accurate results. Comes with a set of easy to read and understand instructions.

Test results will make it easy for you to verify the condition of your soil and amend it as needed so that your garden will flourish all year long.

Low costSuffers from accuracy issues
Easy to useMessy to use
Comes with everything you needVery small test tubes not for those with big hands

One Other Option You Might Consider

While most types of soil pH test strips tend to be less than ideal, they are very easy to use and as long as you buy a top-quality kit can give you the results you are looking for in just a few minutes.

AquaChek AccuGrow 571802 pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium Soil Test Strips

Simple, fast, and accurate results


AQUACHECK AccuGrow 571802 pH Soil Test Strips

You can use these test strips to test your soil for pH, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. They provide you with accurate results in minutes.

The kit comes with a comprehensive guide to soil amendment. There are no chemicals to worry about, no test tubes, and no equipment to worry about losing. All you have to do is dip the strip into damp soil and the strips do all the work.

The Final Test... (in Conclusion)

Nothing is more important to having a highly successful garden than having soil with the proper pH balance and nutrient levels. Each of the above-listed soil pH tester kits and devices will do the job for you and provide you with reasonably accurate results.

For myself, I have to admit I use the kit from Environmental Concepts as I find it gives me the most accurate results.

  • If you have enjoyed reading about the 7 best soil pH tester kits please let me know.

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14 Ingredients for Organic Fertilizer & Exactly What They Are Good For

14 Ingredients for Organic Fertilizer & Exactly What They Are Good For

A handful of organic fertilizer mixed into soil

Want to get the most out of your garden? Learn what these everyday ingredients do for your plants...

ONE OF THE FIRST things I learned when starting down the garden path was that the best thing you can do for your garden is to use an organic fertilizer. Sure, there are a number of ready to use chemical fertilizers available, but who really wants to eat veggies filled with who knows what chemicals.

If you want foods that are packed with nutrients, your soil needs to be very healthy and the best way to do this is not chemically (sorry to all the chemical companies), but with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned organic fertilizers.

The Big Concern

The most important thing you can do for your soil and everything you plan to grow in it is to ensure the soil is as well-balanced as possible. It should be easy, right? After all, it's just dirt, all you need is a bit of fertilizer each year and all should be well.

Not so fast. You can just as easily end up with soil that is overloaded with nutrients as you can soil that is undernourished. The best way to ensure the soil in your garden is perfect for the veggies you plan to grow is to start out with a soil test.

Using Soil Ph Tester Kits to Test Soil in Garden Bed

You don't need the coat and gloves, but doing a soil test is the best way to determine what to put into your fertilizer

Having your soil tested gives you a good starting reference point. In other words, you need to know where your soil is at before you start trying to amend it with the right organic fertilizer.

The real problem or so I found out is that finding a good quality organic fertilizer ready to use on the store shelves is virtually impossible. The reason for this is that most of these are chock full of nasty chemicals that your garden does not need and neither do you as so many of them end up in the veggies you plan to harvest.

The 14 Organic Fertilizer Ingredients

Chemistry is a wonderful subject to study in school, but as with many things, it has only a limited place in your garden.

The best possible way to make your soil healthy is to use good quality organic fertilizers. There are many different items that can be used as an organic fertilizer, some of which are better for veggies, some for fruits, and most that can be used for both. Here are

14 of the most commonly used forms of organic fertilizer.

1. Food Scraps


Image courtesy of David Suzuki Foundation

As simple as it sounds, you do have to be careful about what food scraps you use to create organic fertilizer. For example, you should never use any type of meat scraps, oils, greases, or dairy products in your compost.

You can use virtually any type of vegetable and fruit waste. You can use these scraps as part of your compost pile or by simply spreading them on the ground around the base of the plants or by digging them in closer to the roots.

2. Horse Manure


Image courtesy of Pets4Homes

You should never put fresh horse manure in your garden, it must be properly aged first. Fresh manure can actually burn the roots of your plants.

Horse manure, however, is rich in nitrogen and contains plenty of organic matter. However, given the diet of most horses (eating grass etc. in the pasture) their manure is likely to contain a fair amount of weed seeds.

You can eliminate the seeds by composting the manure before you use it.

3. Chicken Manure

Image courtesy of HenCam

Chicken manure is considered to be an excellent organic fertilizer. It is extremely high in nitrogen and contains phosphorus and potassium. It is this unique blend of nitrogen and other nutrients that makes chicken manure much sought after by expert gardeners.

Due to the high risk of contamination by human parasites and pathogens such as salmonella, you should only use properly aged or high-heat composted manure. Proper aging time is one year as this is long enough for any of these organisms to have died off.

4. Coffee Grounds


Image courtesy of Farmers' Almanac

Coffee grounds are an amazing source of nitrogen. Here again, you can spread the grounds around the base of your plants and mix them into the soil or add them to your compost.

You should never throw away coffee grounds and it doesn't matter whether you drink regular or decaf as their grounds will both do the job.

5. Crushed Egg Shells


Image courtesy of Jolly Egg Farm!

Your body needs plenty or protein and so do many of your plants if you want them to grow up big and strong. Egg shells that have been crushed up into tiny pieces are an excellent source of protein for just about any type of plant.

If you spread them around the base of your plants, not only will they provide much-needed protein, but they are an excellent pest repellent as creatures such as snails and slugs have a hard time climbing over the shells (even the tiny pieces) so they can reach the stalks of your plants.

6. Tea Leaves


Whether you are talking about fresh tea leaves or the ones left over after you make tea (loose leaf or tea bags), they both contain a range of nutrients as well as tannic acid. As the leaves decompose, they help to improve the nutrient level in your soil, and in doing so improve its overall health.

The tannic acid, however, may cause the pH in your garden to become more acidic. This can be a problem around any plants that prefer a neutral to alkaline environment to grow in.

7. Banana Peels


Image courtesy of Reader's Digest

We all eat bananas because they are packed with potassium. So, guess what? Your plants, especially the veggies and flowers, need lots of potassium too!

The potassium will help your plants bloom and flourish. At the same time, much like egg shells, banana peels make great pest repellents as aphids absolutely hate them.

Cut the peels into small pieces and bury then 2 to 3 inches in the ground around the plants. You can also rub the insides of the leaves with the inside of the peels as this also works as a natural pesticide.

8. Orange Peels


Okay, so this one is more about pest control as orange peels chopped up and scattered around your garden will keep the cats out. But, as with any other form of organic matter, the peels will decompose and add nutrients to your soil.

9. Lawn Clippings


Images courtesy of Natural Living Ideas

Lawn clippings should be another major ingredient in your compost bin, but at the same time, they can be added directly to your garden.

Adding a layer of fresh grass clippings to your garden does two things, first and foremost the decomposing grass will add a number or vital nutrients to your garden. Secondly, a good layer of grass will help keep moisture in and slow down the growth of weeds.

Grass, like most plants, is very high in nitrogen.

10. Weeds and Other Prune Clippings


Image courtesy of Cosmos and Cleome

You have to give Mother Nature serious kudos for this, your garden grows its own fertilizer! Weeds tend to be quite high in the nitrogen your veggies need so badly.

You can dry them out and chop them up to use as a mulch, put them in your composter, and some make a "brew" from them. This is done by placing a bunch of leaves from your weeds in a 5-gallon bucket, weighing them down with a brick, and then filling the bucket with water.

You then wait for a few weeks until the liquid becomes a thick goo. This can then be mixed with water at a ratio of 1 part goo to 10 parts water and applied to the soil around your plants.

11. Cardboard, Newspaper, and Paper


These items are great to use as layers in your composter. Adding the paper helps to speed up the composting process and like wood ash, in that, it is high in potassium and calcium carbonate, both of which are vital to your soil's overall health.

These materials also help to absorb and retain water far better than dry soil.

12. Gypsum or Epsom Salts


Image courtesy Wal-Mart

Epsom salts and gypsum are great sources of magnesium and sulfur. Your plants need magnesium in several ways. First it helps the seeds to germinate properly, secondly, it helps with the photosynthesis process.

The sulfur helps with root growth, the production of amino acids, and the formation of chlorophyll.

Here is a more detailed explanation of how Epsom salts can help your garden:

13. Seaweed


First, let's deal with one important myth about fresh seaweed, you DO NOT have to wash it to get rid of the salt before you can use it.

Now on to how to use this amazing source of trace minerals the microorganisms in your garden are so fond of. Chop up the seaweed (fresh or dried) and add to a 5-gallon bucket of water (you need a small bucket of seaweed) and let it brew for about 2 to 3 weeks. Keep the bucket loosely covered.

Once the mix has brewed it can be applied directly to the soil at the base of their stalks.

14. Worm Castings


Image courtesy of Territorial Seed Company

You can buy a worm farm for around a hundred bucks and grow your own fertilizer. The worms live on a diet of soil and compost.

Not only do the worm castings make an excellent fertilizer, but you can feed them on nothing but kitchen scraps and a little cardboard or newspaper. The castings also help your soil to retain more water and have been proven to help reduce the risk of root rot.

Things You Should NOT Put in Your Organic Fertilizer

1. Meat


Meat, including fish scraps, should never be added to your compost or directly to your garden. While these products may have a number of nutrients your garden could surely use, they also contain a number of parasites, artificial hormones, and pathogens your garden does not need.

The other side of this is that your garden will eventually smell of rotting meat. No one needs or wants to live with that!

2. Dog and Cat Manure


Image courtesy Root Simple

There are many animals whose poop makes great manure, horses, cows, chickens, ever rabbits, but both of these creatures are carnivorous by nature. As such their poop is likely to contain a high percentage of meat along with the prerequisite amounts of pathogens, parasites, and microorganisms your garden does not need.


Image courtesy Amazon

IF you really need to, you can use a special pet waste composter that will let the waste break down and everything you don't want to die off. This is not something most garden experts recommend, however.

3. Treated Wood/Sawdust


Image courtesy of

As much as you can use untreated wood, paper, and even cardboard as an organic fertilizer, you should never use treated wood or sawdust made from this type of wood. This includes pressure treated wood and any wood that has been covered with paint, stain, or varnish. All of these can contain toxic compounds. Treated wood has arsenic in it and should be avoided.

4. Any Form of Synthetic Fertilizer


Image courtesy of Van Luyk Greenhouses Garden Center

While it might seem pretty obvious, there are several reasons why you should not include any type of synthetic fertilizer such as that highly popular and very "miraculous" blue crystal stuff to your organic fertilizer.

To start with, they are chock full of inorganic compounds and heavy metals. These ingredients will eventually reach a point at which they are very harmful to your garden and may kill off the many valuable microorganisms in it. They can also significantly affect the balance of your soil's pH and naturally occurring nutrients.

How to Use Organic Fertilizer

Unlike chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers tend to break down quite slowly so you should apply them several months prior to planting the soil. The only exception to this are liquid fertilizers such as weed or grass tea and fish emulsions.

These can be applied directly to the soil around the plants. Here is an in-depth article on using organic fertilizers put out by the National Gardening Association.

One thing to keep in mind above all else is that you need to use the right types of fertilizers to keep the pH and nutrient levels in your soil properly balanced if you want your veggies and fruits to keep your family fed.

Good to the Last Drop

I have found through trial and error (yes I had a couple of really crappy seasons) that the only way to grow a fantastic garden is through the use or organic fertilizers. Honestly, I feel that doing so helps me stay more in touch with my garden all year long, even during the off season as I work on my compost for the next one.

The information on this list is the result of several and yes I mean several years of hard work and plenty of good old-fashioned research.

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The Truth About Landscaping Fabric and 6 Other Easy Ways to Prevent Weeds

The Truth About Landscaping Fabric & 5 Other Simple Ways to Prevent Weeds

Landscaping Fabric Placed on Ground to Stop Weeds

Does laying a physical barrier really prevent weeds? 

GROWING TIRED OF WATCHING the weeds in your garden grow faster than your veggies? It's a common garden dilemma. And it's common for proactive  gardeners (like yourself) to look for a way to put an end to this cycle. Looking for a way to keep the weeds at bay without resorting to spending a lot of time on your knees or working with a hoe. But do any of them actually work?

If you have ever looked at a professional garden installation, you may have noticed they don't have much of a weed problem. One method used to make this happen is the use of landscaping fabric, but there are others such as landscaping plastic, mulch, cardboard and more.

The Jury is Still Out

Okay, so let's start this off by saying the jury is still out on the use of landscaping fabric or plastic sheets.

While many gardeners, both professional and amateur alike swear by these products (yes, they will keep out the weeds), many others say they are not good for your garden and should not be used (they kill off valuable microorganisms and earthworms).

In the end, you have to decide who is right and which of the different weed control methods is going to work best for you.

The 6 Most Common Ways to Prevent Weeds...

1. Landscaping Fabric

Landscaping fabric is a porous material designed specifically to help keep the weed population in your garden under control. It is intended to be placed on top of your garden's soil and then pinned in place and held down by using more soil or mulch.

The fabric is designed to allow water and air to pass through but to ensure no sunlight reaches the soil below it. In doing this, it prevents weeds from being able to germinate and grow. It can be used when planting your garden or added after your plants have come up.

Advantages of Landscaping Fabric

Controls Erosion

Landscaping fabric can be very helpful if your garden suffers from soil erosion problems such as those caused by heavy rains or high winds. It is also very useful if your garden is on a hill to help keep your soil where it belongs.

The fabric will also help to protect your plants' roots from exposure due to erosion that might cause them to succumb to disease, root rot, or many other forms of damage.


Landscaping fabric done properly will prevent weeds in at least the medium and short term

Controls Weeds

We all know that weeds are great at stealing the nutrition your veggies need to flourish from the soil. By keeping the weed population under control, your plants will have a much better chance to grow big and strong, providing you with an exceptionally good harvest.

It is perfect for smaller plants that will in time grow large enough to provide more shade that will also help to keep weeds out of your garden.

Disadvantages of Landscaping Fabric

Adverse Effect on Soil Nutrient Levels

One of the biggest disadvantages of using landscaping fabric is that over time it will have an adverse effect on nutrient levels in your soil. These nutrient levels are dependent on the decomposition of mulch and other materials over time. The fabric will reduce or stop this from happening, leading to "dead" soil that will require significant amendment on a regular basis.

Landscaping Fabric Placed on Ground and Cut Out for Plants

A typical set up of a garden bed covered with landscaping fabric

Loss of Versatility

Many gardeners like to move their plants around or add more as and when needed or wanted. Landscaping fabric was never designed to be versatile and must have holes cut in it every time you want to add more plants. At the same time, if you remove plants, you must patch the fabric or you will soon have weeds growing through the holes.

Scotts 25-Year Pro Landscaping Fabric

Keep weeds at bay without using chemicals


SCOTTS 25-Year Pro Fabric, 3 by 150-Feet

If you are going to use a landscaping fabric to control weeds in your garden, this one by Scotts may be your best choice. It is designed to provide you with up to 25-years' service without breaking down. It also offers excellent erosion control. Thanks to the woven design, water flows through easily, but nothing can grow underneath it.

The fabric is rated at 1.5 ounces and is strong enough to be used under gravel for paths and driveways without suffering any damage. It is easy to work with and comes in a 3-foot wide roll that measures 150-feet long. One thing you should note is that in heavier rains water will pool on the fabric until it has time to drain through.

Easy to cut and work withSome complaints it rips easily
Blocks the growth of most weedsSlow water soak through
Has a long lifespanGrasses may grow through weave

Landscaping Plastics

Some gardeners find that using landscaping plastic can be a good way to keep weeds under control. As with landscaping fabric, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages to using plastic sheeting in your garden. The most common forms of landscaping plastic are clear and black. Depending on what brand you buy it can vary significantly in thickness and overall quality.

2. Clear Landscaping Plastic

While black sheeting is more commonly used, there are some very distinct advantages to using clear plastic instead. The most obvious advantage to using any kind of plastic sheeting is that it will prevent the growth of weeds. But clear plastic will still let the sunshine reach your soil.

This helps to warm the soil and in many cases will allow you to start planting a little earlier. The heat will also help to kill off any soil borne pathogens. This process is called "solarization" and can help to rid your soil of disease-causing organisms, insects, and of course pathogens.

Covalence Plastics 4-Millimeter Clear Tyco Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

Listed as a vapor barrier but thick enough to use in the garden


COVELANCE PLASTICSTyco Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

At 4 millimeters thick, this clear plastic sheeting is more than strong enough to keep the weeds in your garden under control. Each roll is 10 feet wide by 100 feet long, giving you plenty of coverage.

While it is not listed as being for use in landscaping, but it is definitely up to the task. Unlike many other so-called "clear" plastics that end up being milky, this one is crystal clear and will let plenty of sunlight reach the ground under it. It is easy to handle and easy to cut.

One word of caution, however, be sure you are cutting in the right place as repairing erroneous holes can be challenging as most tapes (including duct tape) will not stick to it very well. If you are covering a large area, be prepared to overlap pieces for best results.

Rolls are 10 x 50 FeetDoes not allow water to pass through
Crystal ClearRips easily
Easy to work withHard to repair rips and tears

3. Black Landscaping Plastic

Black plastic landscaping fabrics come in many guises, but those that are at least 4 feet wide and at least 1-1.5 millimeters thick are the most commonly used. Bear in mind that if you plan to use the plastic for several years or bury it under mulch, gravel, or a layer of soil, thicker plastic will last longer. Be sure that any sheeting you buy is listed as being UV resistant to help keep it from breaking down.

Black plastic will help hold in any warmth your soil happens to have and may allow a certain amount of heat to build up during the day. However, it will block out the sun's UV rays and in doing so prevents them from killing pathogens, disease-causing microorganisms, and pesky insects. If you live in a colder climate, you may find the heat generated will not even be enough to help kill weeds.

No matter whether you use clear or black landscaping plastic both will not allow water to reach your plants and will also stop any water in your soil from evaporating. This can lead to problems such as root rot that can kill your garden rather than helping it to grow.

Covalence Plastics Black Tyco Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

Extra-wide rolls make covering larger areas a breeze

COVALENCE PLASTICS Black Tyco Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

COVALENCE PLASTICS Black Tyco Polyethylene Plastic Sheeting

This roll of black sheeting can easily be adapted for use as landscaping plastic and at 12 feet wide is sure to cover a large area of your garden in a hurry. Each roll is 100 feet long each roll provides a lot of coverage. At 6 millimeters, the plastic is thick enough to take significant abuse without falling apart.

Although listed as a construction material, it is perfectly suited to being used out in your garden to help get rid of the weeds. You should be aware, however, that black plastic can trap in excessive amounts of heat that can "cook" your soil and everything in it (including the good bacteria and microorganisms).

12-foot-wide rolls offer plenty of coverageCan overheat your soil
Durable enough to walk onRips easily
Keeps weeds at bayHard to repair rips

4. Mulch

Mulch is one of the oldest forms of weed prevention short of getting down on your hands and knees so you can pull each weed complete with its roots out of the ground. Depending on the type of mulch you intend to buy, it can be a great way to control the weeds in your garden naturally.

This being said, you can buy mulch made from wood chips or bark, locally at very reasonable prices. This type of mulch will break down over time and help to add nutrients to your garden.

But at the same time as it breaks down, you will need to replace it on a fairly regular basis. You may find that unless you put landscaping fabric or plastic under it, you will still see a small quantity of very brave weeds poking through any holes.

There are a number of rubber mulch alternatives that do not break down or blow away. These have the added advantage of lasting for many years without losing their looks or effectiveness. But, at the same time, you are putting another unnatural layer in your garden.

Scotts® Nature Scapes® Color Enhanced Mulch

Made from natural recovered forest products


SCOTTS Nature Scapes Color Enhanced Mulch

Unlike some "wood" mulch, Scotts never uses wood pallets or old construction debris to make this mulch. It is made from natural recovered forest products that do not contain harmful chemical or nails.

It is available in a range of colors that are guaranteed to stay vibrant all year long. Each bag measure 2 cubic feet for maximum coverage. It should be spread 3 inches thick for maximum weed prevention while still allowing moisture to reach your plants.

Color lasts a long timeA bit expensive
Made from natural recovered forest materialsColor will come off on your hands when putting down
Reduces amount of water needed for your plantsMixed texture may include twigs and sticks

5. Cardboard and/or Newspaper

Cardboard placed on ground to kill weeds

Photo: ‘Cardboard base for raised bed’ CC BY 2.0 JoePhoto

Using cardboard, newspaper or a combination of both has become a popular way to mulch gardens and prevent the growth of weeds at the same time. Along with this, it is a great way to recycle these materials rather than seeing them end up in your local landfill.

Many gardeners will place a layer of cardboard or newspaper in their garden at the beginning of the season and then cover them with mulch. The idea behind this is the same as using landscaping fabrics, plastic sheets, or for that matter mulch by itself.

This idea is to block sunlight from reaching the soil, which in turn will help to prevent the growth of those annoying weeds. Both materials will help to insulate the soil and keep a certain amount of warmth in.

Over time they will also allow water to slowly soak through and add moisture to the soil. Both will eventually decompose and add a number of nutrients back into your soil. The best part is you can find plenty of cardboard at most local businesses and they won't charge you a dime to haul it away.

Both decompose adding nutrientsBoth are messy
Both are freeNewspaper can blow away
Both are being recycledYou still need mulch or rocks to hold in place

6. Chemical Weed Prevention

As with many other facets of our lives, weeds can be controlled through the use of chemicals. Weed preventers and weed killers have become a major factor in both home gardens and industrial farms where growers are more worried about producing large quantities of their crops than they are about what ends up in the end product.

Does this mean you should not use chemical weed killers in your garden? Not necessarily, what it does mean is that you need to decide for yourself if you are comfortable with using products such as Preen to prevent the growth of weeds or if you would be better off taking a more natural approach.


Preen is not a weed killer


Preen Garden Weed Preventer 

One thing you need to know up front is that Preen is not a weed killer and should not be used to take care of an existing weed problem. It is designed to stop most weeds from being able to germinate.

It can be used after your plants have germinated and reached a height of 2 to 3 inches. It will not harm most plants and can be incorporated into the soil before you plant, while you plant, or applied after you have mulched your garden beds.

For best results, it should be reapplied every 9 to 12 weeks.

Keeps weeds at bay for up to 9 weeks or longerMust be reapplied every 9 - 12 weeks
You are adding unnatural chemicals to your gardenDoes not kill existing weeds
Will not harm most garden plants and flowersNot always very effective

Down to the Last Weed

There are so many different ways to prevent weeds from growing in your gardens. Some like landscaping fabric offer a long-term solution but may affect the overall quality of your soil. Others like Preen add toxic chemicals to your soil that can have a range of adverse effects.

For my money, I use plenty of cardboard along with a healthy layer of cardboard. This lets me enjoy watching my garden grow without the back-breaking work of pulling weeds all summer long. I also use natural mulch so that over time my garden gets plenty of natural nutrition.

  • If you have enjoyed reading about landscaping fabrics and other forms of weed control please let me know.

  • If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

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The Best Garden Mulcher For Everyday Gardeners And Their Yards

The Best Garden Mulcher For Everyday Gardeners And Their Yards

Best Garden Mulcher - Pile of fall leaves with fan rake on lawn

Garden mulchers are a big help when your clearing leaves and small branches. In this article, we compare and discover how you can best use them and how to determine what you need from a mulcher

ARE THE LEAVES AND BRANCHES in your garden starting to pile up? Thankfully, there's a much better way to deal with this mess.

A garden mulcher or shredder that can turn this mess into useful garden mulch in a matter of minutes. I love my mulcher, it turns all of the clippings, branches, twigs, and leaves into great mulch. Then I can use it in the garden or add to my compost pile.

With so many different models available, finding the best garden mulcher for your particular circumstance can be challenging. So to help, here is some  information that will make it easier for you to find the right one for your garden.

The Difference Between a Mulcher, Shredder & Wood Chipper

If you have had a look around already, you might find mulchers mixed in with shredders and wood chippers. The easiest way to define the differences is that mulchers are for small items (i.e. leaves and twigs). They are also typically powered by an electricity cord.

Shredders are similar to mulchers, but can process a little more. Branches up to 1.5 – 2 inches in diameter. They are more of a all-rounder type unit. The trade off here is that shredders are slower to get the job done than mulchers. This being due to the mechanisms that shred the green material are different (How they work is covered later in the article).

For the average homeowner, a mulcher or a shredder will suffice for most jobs and is recommended.

Wood chippers are the largest category, for items like big branches (over 2 inches in diameter). These are typically gas powered and some are sold as commercial units. To cover all bases, all 3 are covered in more detail below.

Choosing the Best Garden Mulcher for Your Needs

If you are not careful, you could easily end up buying a garden mulcher that causes more frustration than it solves problems. It can easily end up being the wrong size or style to handle the mess in your yard.

I have used many different types of mulchers over the years. The most important point I have taken away from my experience is how hard it can be to find one that can handle everything you care to throw at it.

To help determine which of them is going to be the best garden mulcher for your needs, there are a few factors you need to consider and questions you need to be able to answer.

What Materials Will You Be Mulching?

Mulching small twigs and branches in a garden mulcher

Small twigs and branches like this are prefect for a corded electric shredder

Is it only a once a year job clearing the leaves in Fall, or do you need to trim back some trees that are getting out of hand? Once you have decided, it's best to look at the manufacturer's list of materials their unit is capable of handling.

How Often Do You Plan to Use Your Mulcher?

Commercial sized wood mulchers/shredders get used often, which is one reason why they are expensive

Large sized wood chippers take harsh treatment and chip pretty much anything you can throw at them. A few reasons why they are more expensive

Do you plan to use your mulcher several times each year or are you looking for a unit that will only be used in the fall to deal with all the leaves that drop? If you only need one for use in the fall, you will probably be fine with a lighter duty model, but if you plan to use it on larger items more frequently, you may find that a heavier duty model (shredder/wood chipper) will be a better choice.

How Much Mulching Are You Going to Be Doing?

How much yard waste do you think you will need to process at one given time. In the event that you have large piles of waste, you need to choose a machine that is capable of handling this type of capacity.

Machines with a smaller funnel (such as shredders) are subject to becoming jammed if you try to push too much debris through them at one time. Buying a machine that is too small can lead to frustration as it can make a simple project take far longer than necessary.

How Big is Your Yard?

A large yard space with many trees

A yard like this with many trees will require a decent unit to keep up with the debris left by the trees

If you have a large yard you should think about purchasing one that can be easily moved around. Another thing to consider (one I forgot to think about with my first mulcher), is that if you buy an electric mulcher, you may not be able to use it effectively as there may not be electrical outlets nearby.

You should only use a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord with a mulcher. Smaller cords may reduce the amount of power available to the unit. This can lead to poor performance, overheating, and damage to your mulcher.

On the other hand, if you have a smaller yard, you may not want a gasoline powered unit as they are heavy and noisy. These units are designed for use in larger areas with much larger branches and debris.

Also worth noting is that both electric and gas-powered models can be designed to handle smaller or larger debris, again be sure to read the specs listed by the manufacturer.

What is Your Budget?

If you are like me and need to carefully plan every dollar that you spend (and justify it with the wife), you need to consider price.  If all you have is a small yard with very limited amounts of debris, price may not be something worth considering as a small electric model should suffice.

On the other hand, if you have a larger yard you might want to think about performance, and versatility. You can save some money by going with a shredder rather than a wood chipper. At my place anything that doesn't go into the shredder gets cut up and goes into the fireplace.

How Much Mulch are You Going to Be Making?

Man mulching a small flower garden

The amount of mulch you plan to make and use also plays a role in the size and type of garden mulcher you decide to buy. If you are just planning to mulch for a small garden or composter from time to time, a small electric mulcher should do the trick nicely.

On the other hand, if you have a large garden or several gardens that you plan to keep well covered in mulch all year round, you may find that investing in one of the bigger gas powered units is much better idea. The good news is that if you have had to purchase mulch in the past, you can reap the rewards with a good quality unit.

The Pros & Cons of Electric and Gasoline Power

The type of power (electric motor or gasoline engine) is perhaps one of the most important decisions you need to make. Each has their advantages and disadvantages you need to be aware of before making your final decision.

Electric shredder with wood chips used for garden mulching

Electric shredder with wood chips used for garden mulching

Electric Motors




Limited range (near electrical outlets)

Low cost

Limited to smaller waste

Easily portable

Tend to jam easily

Gas powered garden mulcher

A Gas powered unit ready to start work

Gasoline Engines



Great for larger yards


Can shred larger limbs and waste

Require gasoline to use

No limit to range

More expensive

How Garden Mulchers and Shredders Work

The Difference Between the Different Mechanisms

Although there are variations in models including stand-alone, walk behind and vacuum models, a big difference between the different units is how they turn the garden debris into mulch. This section covers how the different mechanisms work.

Should Your Mulcher Have Flails or Blades?

The best garden mulchers have a variety of different ways to process materials, because of this I am going to go over the most common of them.


Many garden shredders make use of flails mounted on a rotor. As the rotor spins, the material being fed into the machine is shredded into fine pieces.

These machines are designed strictly for use on smaller twigs, leaves, and debris. Anything bigger than this is likely to end up breaking off the flails resulting in stopping the machine and changing the parts over (which will get old quickly).


A typical set of replacement blades for a mulcher. Image courtesy of Oregon

Those that are designed to shred typically have a number of blades (sometimes called knives) attached to a flywheel the spins. As you feed the material into the unit, the spinning blades will shred it and turn it into mulch.

However, in order to function at their best, the blades need to be kept sharp. Even if you don't end up hitting a few rocks or pieces of metal, you will still need to sharpen the blades every 20 hours or so.

These units tend not to work well with softer materials but work great with small green branches. Tough old branches may also tend to dull the blades more quickly, requiring more time spent sharpening them.

Four of the Best Garden Mulchers

So, with all of this in mind and knowing what you should be looking for when trying to find the best garden mulcher to fit your needs and of course your budget. One thing to remember is that price should never be your first or even second consideration when buying a mulcher.

You should start by looking for the best garden mulcher to get the job done and then worry about cost. Even if you have to save for a little bit longer, you will find the wait well worth it in the end.

Hand-held Vacuum Blower/Vacuum Mulcher

Portable power in your hands that is perfect for smaller yards where your only concern is cleaning up the leaves in Fall. Also great for people with bad backs.

The Black and Decker BV5600 High-Performance Blower/Vac Mulcher

Hand-Held Blower/Vac Makes Raking Leaves a Thing of the Past


This little beauty not only acts as a mulcher, it can also be used to vacuum up the leaves you have just blown into a big pile. If all you have to worry about is the leaves that drop in the fall, this may be all you need.

The 12-amp motor creates a 250-mph wind and has two operating speeds. With this unit, you can grind up to 16 bags of leaves and turn them into a single bag of mulch you can put in your garden or in your compost pile.




Blade/impeller is aluminum and may shatter


Fan inertia can twist unit from hands

High-speed 250-mph winds

Leaves tend to get stuck in pick up tube

Portable Free-Standing Electric Mulcher

This type of mulcher is designed to be put in one place and left there for use. Typically they are made of a few different pieces which come apart when it's time to pack away. This way they take less space than a typical portable free-standing mulcher.

Worx 13 Amp Electric Leaf Mulcher WG430

A Wide Mouth and Large Capacity Machine that Could Come in Very Handy

The 13-amp electric motor is powerful enough to chew through up to 53 gallons of leaves per minute and dump them straight into your collection bag or a neat pile you can use to mulch your garden.

It features the Worx patented Flex-a-Line blade that provides an 11:1 mulching ratio. Once the job is done, you can easily and quickly fold this mulcher down to a compact unit that can easily be stored in your garden shed.



Clean air motor cooling system

Generates a lot of dust

Huge capacity

Is for use on leaves only

Powerful 13-Amp motor

Plug does not have a ground lug for safety in wet conditions

Portable Free-Standing Electric Shredder

Electric powered shredders on wheels can make moving the unit around your yard much easier and the wide feed mouth makes feeding your debris a breeze. They are more versatile in shredding small branches as well as leaves and twigs, however they don't come apart easy meaning they can take up more space than a stand alone mulcher.

Eco-Shredder ES1600 14-Amp Electric Chipper / Shredder / Mulcher

Roll this Beauty to the Work Site with Ease


Not everyone wants to carry a mulcher on their shoulder, this one can easily be rolled anywhere within reach of a power outlet. Not only is it equipped with a powerful 14-amp electric motor, you also get a spare set of blades.

With no gas engine, all you have to do is plug it in and hit the switch. The large top hopper design makes feeding waste including leaves, brush, chips, and small branches up to 1.375 inches in diameter easy.



Wheels make moving the mulcher easy

Must feed slowly or risk damaging blades

Plenty of power

Does not work well with wet debris

Shreds debris into mulch no bigger than a dime

Product manual leaves a lot to be desired

Gasoline Power

Gas powered shredders and chippers tend to be far more expensive than most electric models (think 3 to 6 times more expensive). However, they tend to be far more powerful and capable of handling larger limbs and debris. They are much heavier duty than electric mulchers. Most are mounted on wheels to ensure easier portability, but can be awkward to move.

Brush Master CH3M15 270cc 3″ Diameter Feed Commercial Duty Shredder

Pure Gasoline Power to Shred Just About Anything in Your Yard


This is one of the most powerful gas chipper/shredders in its class and features 16 hammers and a single hardened chromium steel blade to ensure maximum shredding efficiency. It can handle branches up to 3-inches in diameter that can be fed in through the top or the side.  

The entire housing is made from solid heavy gauge steel instead of easily worn out plastic or aluminum. Creates 1 bag of 1/4-inch mulch from 12 bags of debris



Can handle branches up to 3-inches in diameter


Comes with a tow bar for ease of portability

Very heavy

Belt drive with centrifugal clutch to protect engine

Belt may wear out slowing down shredding action

Other Options

If a free-standing mulcher does not sound like it will work for your needs, there is one more alternative, a chipper/shredder vacuum.  

These devices look a little like a lawn mower, but instead of cutting the lawn, they vacuum up leaves and shred them on the way to the bag hanging on the back.

They are ideal for cleaning up the leaves in larger yards and take the back breaking pain out of raking.

Troy-Bilt CSV60 159cc Push Chipper Shredder Vac

Nothing Like Doing a Little Yard Vacuuming


This little beauty from Troy-Bilt a world leader in outdoor equipment manufacturer nicely shreds your leaves into a fine mulch that can be used directly in the garden or in your compost pile. It also vacuums your yard clear of all those pesky leaves in the fall. You can use the 7-foot long hose with extensions to get into tight spaces or under trees and shrubs.



Gas powered portability

Owner's manual does not cover assembly

Hardened steel impeller

Catch bag tears

Comes with a 2-bushel felt-lined collection bag

Does not create fine mulch

The Final Shred, Mulch or Chip

There is a lot more to choosing the best garden mulcher than simply running out to the store and buying one. I hope that by providing you this information, I have at least taken some of the guesswork out of buying the right mulcher for your garden.

If you have enjoyed reading about the best garden mulcher please let me know.

If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

Let everyone know you enjoyed reading this on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thanks for reading my guide to finding the best garden mulcher for your needs.

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The Top 25 Easiest Houseplants to Grow in Your Home

The Top 25 Easiest Houseplants to Grow in Your Home

Easy to Grow Houseplants

Easy to grow indoor plants that require little maintenance, look pretty, and can actually purify your home...

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There is nothing like having a home filled with beautiful plants, but so many people think you have to be born with a green thumb to successfully grow houseplants. This simply isn't the case as growing indoor plants is actually relatively easy and can be just as much fun.

For those people who want to start greening up their indoors, I did my homework and came up with this list of the 25 easiest houseplants to grow.

Low-Maintenance Indoor Plants

Most of these plants require the bare minimum of care but will keep the inside of your home filled with green beauty.


Cool Plants for Hot Days


Aloe plants look amazing with the large spiraling leaves. You can get them to grow virtually anywhere that they can get a little sunlight.

They do not need watered very often (soak them every couple of weeks) and provide you with aloe when you break off a leaf that can be used to relieve the pain of burns and some cuts.

English Ivy

The Perfect Plant for Hanging Around


English Ivy is a climbing plant by nature, but you can also let it hang over things like mantels, bookcases, shelves, or counters.

Like aloe plants, English Ivy does not require a lot of upkeep and left unfettered, it will spread out quickly covering whatever gets in its way. You can also create your own topiary by training the ivy into any shape.

Ponytail Palm

A Bargain Plant that is So Much Fun to Look At

The ponytail palm looks just like the palm trees you see in Florida or California but is the perfect size for a sun-drenched windowsill in your home.

Like its namesake, the last thing your ponytail palm wants is to be over-watered. The trunk (stem) of this plant holds large reserves of water it can live off for days.

Lucky bamboo

Bring a Taste of the Orient to Your Home


What's really funny is that lucky bamboo isn't even a member of the bamboo family. It is, however, one of the easiest indoor plants to grow. It does very well in low-light areas and is, in fact, a tropical water lily.

It comes from Africa, where it is thought to bring good luck to those who live in the home. All you need to do is keep the soil moist, which you can do on a daily basis with a spray bottle. You can also grow it hydroponically (with the roots in water) which is the most common way to do so.

Red-Edged Dracaena

The Unique Red-Edged Leaves Make a Great Addition to Any Home

If you are looking for a plant to fill a corner in your home, this may be just what you are looking for. These plants with their unique red-edged leaves can grow up to 15 feet tall.

They do need plenty of sunlight but are considered to be among the easiest plants to care for. They also filter out chemicals like xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde from the air in your office or home.


Also Called the “Prayer Plant”


The Kalanchoe or prayer plant is a succulent, which means it retains water. It grows a beautiful bouquet of brightly colored bell-shaped flowers that are sure to brighten any room in your home.

The good news is that this little beauty takes very little in the way of care and loves dry climate and large temperature changes. At night the flowers fold up, which looks a little as though the plant is praying, hence its name.

Pretty Houseplants that Add a Touch of Beauty to Your Home

These plants will add a touch of rare beauty to your home. Most take very little in the way of maintenance to keep them happy and healthy. Some like the Christmas Cactus rarely bloom, but when they do, the flowers are amazingly beautiful.

Snake plant

Tall Thin Leaves with a Snakeskin Look


Image By Martin Olsson (mnemo on wikipedia and commons, – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

When it comes to caring for a houseplant, it simply doesn’t get any easier than the snake plant. This plant is also known as the “Mother-in-Law's Tongue”.

It grows well in virtually any lighting conditions and requires drier air and soil. It even prefers normal room temperature. The variegated leaves often have white or yellow edges, depending on the variety.

Christmas Cactus

The Perfect Choice for a Tall Pot or a Hanging Basket

One of the reasons the Christmas cactus remains so popular is that it lives for a very long time. Most of the year all you see is long green segmented stems that look like a cactus. But, just in time for the holidays, the plant should be covered in blooms of orange, pink, purple, red, or white.  

It should be kept in a sunny window and requires regular watering, you can also keep a tray of water under the pot to help keep the soil moist.

Jade Plant

Straight Out of South Africa

This succulent is native to South Africa and uses its broad green leaves to retain the water it needs to survive. In the event this amazing plant does not get enough water, it will go dormant.

When it starts to get enough water, it will rehydrate and once again begin to grow and flourish. It does, however, have a shallow root system and is easily knocked out of the pot.


Beautiful Blooms and New Pups to Grow On

These amazing plants are part of the pineapple family and while they don't produce any kind of fruit, they do produce their own pups (side shoots) that can be carefully removed and planted.

They like temperatures around 70° F, which makes them the perfect houseplant. To water, you simply fill the center of the leaves and check on a regular basis.

Crown of Thorns

Beautiful, Even When it's not Blooming

One of the great things about the Crown of Thorns is that this plant looks amazing, even if it isn't currently in bloom. The bright gray-green stems are covered in sharp little thorns.

While the flowers bloom in a variety of colors, the most common color is red. Some come with cream, yellow, white, or pink flowers and have fewer thorns.

As long as you give this plant plenty of light, it can take a fair amount of abuse.

The Rubber Tree

Whoops, There Goes Another One….


We all know the song that goes “whoops there goes another one”, which may be an indication of how fast they disappear out of stores. These plants are incredibly strong and easy to grow.

They do extremely well in low light and cooler temperatures. NASA rates them as a powerful eliminator of toxins and an exceptional air purifier.


Shiny Leaves that Add Cheer to Your Home

The ficus plant offers a plumage of shiny green leaves with yellow edges that are sure to add a touch of cheer to virtually any room in your house.

You can create your own topiary by weaving the branches together. It does like to be in full sun or bright properly filtered light and should be watered just enough to keep the soil moist.

Functional Plants that Clean the Air in Your Home

While all plants help remove carbon dioxide from the air in your home, some are much better at cleaning the air than others. All of these are on the NASA top ten list of plants that clean the air.

Peace Lily

A Great Low-Maintenance Plant for Your Home

The Peace Lily offers amazingly beautiful blooms that last for a very long time. It is easy to care for in low light conditions, making it a great choice for rooms that don't have a lot of windows.

All it needs is temps up to around 85° F and moist soil. These plants can grow to between 1 and 6 feet tall. They filter a number of toxins from the air.

Garden Mum

Bringing the Outdoors Inside


While chrysanthemums look wonderful out in the garden, in the right planter or pot, they can add a wonderful touch of beauty to the inside of your home or office.

They should only be watered when the soil begins to feel dry should be placed out of direct sunlight.

According to the University of Missouri Extension, you can push them to bloom by limiting exposure to sunlight to 10 hours.

Bamboo Palm

Yet Another in the Long List of Natural Air Cleaners

This attractive plant is also a member of the NASA top clean-air plants scoring an incredible 8.4 out of 10. Not only does it remove CO2, but it also removes benzene and trichloroethylene.

It should be kept in low light areas of your home and well-watered. The leaves can grow up to 24 inches long, making it the perfect plant for empty corners.

A watering balloon is the best way to keep this one properly watered.

Spider Plant

Put It In a Pot, Hang it From The Ceiling, Ignore It and This Plant Will Still Grow


Image By Eptalon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Spider plants are without a doubt one of the most common houseplants in the world. They are decorative, unbelievably easy to grow and are another member of the NASA top air-purifying plants.

They are great for removing a number of toxic chemicals from the air in your home including, benzene, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide and xylene.


Easy Care, Long Vines, Air Purifier, What More Could You Ask For

Image By Krzysztof Ziarnek, Kenraiz – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This beautiful plant produces vines laden with heart-shaped leaves and is a very popular choice for growing indoors. Much like English Ivy, it is also very good at absorbing xylene.

Providing you care for them properly with moderate amounts of water and plenty of sunlight, philodendrons can live for many years.

Boston Fern

Give Any Room a Classic Look with this Beautiful Fern

The Boston fern grows long arching fronds covers with lacy leaves and can be successfully grown in planters or hanging baskets.

While it might look delicate, don't be fooled. With the right care, a warm place to grow, plenty of sunlight, and just the right amount of water, a Boston fern can live for decades.  

This plant can grow up to four feet tall and four feet in diameter.

Food - Yes You Can Grow Food Indoors

There is no reason why you can't grow plants indoors that not only add a touch of color to your home, but aid in air purification and can provide you with food.


Often Called Vegetable Confetti

Microgreens or as they are often called, “vegetable confetti” are not sprouts or sprouting greens, they are a fully edible form of immature greens that can be harvested using a common pair of scissors.

It typically takes about one month for them to go from seed to plants that are approximately 2 inches tall. They can be grown on any sunny windowsill and are packed with flavor and nutrients.


You Don't Need a Greenhouse to Enjoy Fresh Tomatoes

Do you hate the idea of having to wait until summer for fresh vine ripe tomatoes? Do you have a sunny window where you can place one or more pots with tomato plants in them?

If so, there is no reason why you shouldn't grow your own tomatoes indoors all year round. However, you do need to choose varieties that have a short growth time. (‘Early Bush' Cherry Tomato & ‘Sweet Olive' Tomato are two likely candidates)


Everyone Loves the Smell of Fresh Basilbasil_plant

Basil is one of the most commonly used herbs in many forms of cooking, including French, Italian, and Latino.

It is also a very easy to grow herb that can be grown indoors or out and produces plenty of leaves that can be used fresh or dried.

Just be sure the pot you choose has good drainage and you place it in an area with plenty of light.


A Bit Trickier than Some to Grow, but Worth It


Growing rosemary indoors can be quite tricky. But with a little care and effort, you should end up with a fragrant herb that not only makes the house smell great but adds a lot of flavor to many dishes.

One of the worst things you can do is bring a rosemary plant indoors without taking the time to acclimate it. You do this by moving the plant to shady areas in your garden during the day for a few weeks before you plan to bring it inside.


The Perfect Additions to Many Dishes, Anyone for a Mint Julep?mint_plant

Mint may be one of the easiest herbs to grow indoors. There are many different varieties for you to choose from, all of which can easily be grown indoors in containers.

There is literally no scenario in which this prolific plant can't and won't grow. If you give it plenty of sunlight and water, your kitchen will soon be overrun, but then you will have plenty to garnish your next mint julep.

And the #1 Easiest Houseplant to Grow

Marble Queen Ivy

A Perennial Favorite in Homes Around the Country

This amazing leafy vine plant can grow trailers that measure 10 feet in length or more. It can survive with minimal watering and in low-light conditions.

Many people take great pride in seeing just how long they can get the vines to grow. It does not, however, fare as well in drought conditions like many other indoor plants do.

One popular way to display this plant is in a hanging basket hung in front of a window with the trailers going around the window.

The Final Goal

The final goal of this article was to show you how easy it is to create indoor gardens in your home that add beauty and in some cases food to the inside of your home. This is only a small selection of the hundreds of easy to grow indoor plants.

My home is filled with a selection of these, especially herbs that I use regularly in many of the dishes I cook for my family.  They also help to purify the air inside my home in much the same way as those outside do for the planet.

If you have enjoyed reading about the top 25 easiest houseplants to grow please let me know.

If you have any information you would like to see here, please contact us here.

Let everyone know you enjoyed reading this on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Thank you for reading this.

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